The annual Eurovision song competition has had its share of controversial contestants over the years, like transgender singer Dana International, or monstrous-looking heavy metal band Lordi, but the Austrian Television’s decision to nominate Conchita Wurst, a bearded transvestite artist, as the country’s official contestant for next year’s event has caused more public outrage than ever before, in Austria.
Conchita Wurst sets herself apart from other other artists not only through her voice, but also by wearing women’s clothing, makeup and a full beard. The thick facial hair is the artist’s way of drawing attention to herself, because, well, the world responds to a woman with hair on her face. The beard of this “racy Colombian” is very real, for it belongs to the man behind the mask, 24-year-old Tom Neuwirth. He first appeared in the spotlight in 2006, when he came second in a televised talent show called Star Mania, but completely disappeared from the public life after that, until 2011 when he returned with a whole new look, under the name Conchita Wurst. She has become Tom’s alter-ego and he says there are now two hearts beating in his chest, one of an Austrian man and the other of a hot-blooded Colombian performer. After he puts on the makeup and women’s clothes, Tom really becomes Conchita and demands that he be addressed as such. He acts like a woman and even uses the ladies’ room, but once the performance is over, he goes back to being Tom. Asked if it’s not too confusing splitting his life in two, the artist said he actually recommends having an alter-ego because it’s great fun and it allows you to live out every fantasy you ever wanted.
Photo: PAZ Photography/Facebook
Conchita first participated in the national selection for Eurovision last year, when she came in second place. Austria failed to qualify for the Eurovision final in the last two years, so this year, the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) decided not to organize the national selection in which people got to vote for their favorites, instead opting for an internal decision. They chose Conchita Wurst to represent Austria in the 2014 Eurovision song contest, a move that caused massive outcry in the whole country. Some contested the ORF’s decision to bypass national selection, while others were simply outraged by their choice. Someone created a Facebook page called “No to Conchita Wurst at the song contest”, which currently has over 38,500 fans, more than the artist’s fan page, while others posted homophobic messages on the popular social network. There is also a petition against her representing Austria in Copenhagen, next year.
Photo: Conchita Wurst/Facebook
In a statement she made recently, Conchita said she respects people’s opinions, but asked if there weren’t more important things for people to put so much energy into. Like fighting FOR “different” individuals who are discriminated against every single day, instead of fighting AGAINST them. “How would you feel if your friends, relatives, children, colleagues, etc. were abused in this way? I am sure that in your local area there are also people who are “different” Conchita said. “I continue to fight AGAINST discrimination and FOR tolerance,” she added. “For I am convinced that in the 21st Century EVERY person has the right to live as they want, as long as no one else is injured or their freedom is limited in any way. And as far as I know I did not hurt anyone.”
Photo: Manfred Werner/Wikimedia Commons